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Scaffolding in front of a building under construction, using OSB wall panels
Why prefab OSB options are the industry’s best kept secret.

One moment Des Bickerton (Commercial Manager NZ) looks as if he’s about to burst with excitement and the next, he’s coyly holding back information. And for good reason. He’s reluctant to give away too much about the latest building innovation – aware that the competition’s starting on a similar trajectory. But he’s dead-keen to share what’s new with builders and developers, saying: “Innovation is all about sharing, pushing things forward and getting the latest technology into the hands of those who can make use of it, build with it, get things done faster, improving the industry and landscape going forward. That’s why we’re so excited about this – it’s the time saving potential for developers and the industry as a whole.” 

What he’s referring to is the new plant producing prefabricated Oriented Strandboard (OSB) wall panels. Des and Bunnings business partners will soon be rolling out significantly larger volumes of prefab OSB thanks to a fully automated operation, and a plant due to be completed in the next six months. What’s so exciting about this is not necessarily the materials – OSB is already being used in a range of affordable new builds across the country. But for those in the know, the prefab OSB plant means bigger projects have the potential to be completed weeks ahead of time. It’s especially advantageous when you take New Zealand conditions into account and this was a key factor when Des decided to set up the new prefabrication plant.

“In New Zealand, the less you have to do onsite, the better. When you have panels prepared, cut to measure and put together offsite in a controlled environment, it reduces the amount of work on site, labour costs, margin of error and potential risk of being exposed to the elements.” “Based off what I saw at the Pacific Coast Conference and following Europe and the US, there’s a big move to prefab timber construction. And for good reason – it does the job of two products required for construction to speed up the building process and that’s crucial in New Zealand with our changeable weather. With our new OSB plant we’ll be rolling out a service that can get things onsite and closed up in a ten-day period.”

The industry has cottoned on, too. Prominent developers and builders in the trade are already using prefab OSB – in fact, those who have tried it are saving so much time, they’re getting things up and running way ahead of schedule. “Developers using prefabricated OSB have already had competition asking how they’re getting it done so fast. If you’re building fifteen two-story houses, you can save weeks. Projects that might take 12 to 16 days – well, they’re getting it done in 10.”

While prefab OSB panels are currently only available in Auckland, when the plant is up and running at full capacity it could potentially supply prefab OSB in large quantities to builders across the country. It’s an exciting development and certainly a space to be watching.

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